Do you suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms such as cramping, bloating, stomach pain, gas, diarrhoea, or constipation and have no idea what’s causing it? Do you seem to be taking all right precautions (i.e. eat a healthy diet, exercise daily, get plenty of sleep, manage your stress etc.), but can’t seem to shake off these troublesome symptoms? Chances are it may be the types of healthy food that you’re eating.
There’s a pesky group of carbohydrates called FODMAPs that are famous for causing these symptoms. Keep reading to learn more about what foods fall under FODMAP umbrella and how to take back control of your digestive issues.
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAPs are a group of sugars found in carbohydrate foods and stands for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.” After ingesting carbohydrate foods, FODMAPs travel to the small intestine and attract water and then make their way to the large intestine where they are fermented by your gut bacteria and produce gas. For most people, this fermentation process keeps your gut healthy by providing energy to gut bacteria, the same as when eating dietary fibre.
However, people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) have problems with gut motility (the speed of which contents move through the intestines) and highly sensitive intestine walls that cause these sugars to be poorly digested. When these sugars pass through the small intestine, they draw excess water and when they travel to the large intestine, they cause excessive gas. This excessive gas and water cause the intestinal wall to stretch and expand resulting in IBS symptoms such as abdominal pain, bowel changes (bloating/diarrhoea), bloating, distension, flatulence, and fatigue.
What foods contain FODMAPs?
FODMAPs are found in a large variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, bread, cereals, and confectionery. The level of FODMAPs found in different foods varies as well as its overall effect on individuals—some may be problematic for a few and not for others. If you suffer from IBS symptoms, you should avoid high FODMAP foods and instead opt for low FODMAP alternatives.
How do I know if a FODMAP diet is right for me?
If you find yourself feeling bloated like you're three months pregnant, are constantly feeling gassy or experiencing regular abdominal pain or discomfort, then you may be suffering from IBS. In fact, IBS is a lot more common than you may think as it affects approximately one in seven Australians. Fortunately, following a low FODMAP diet has shown to improve symptoms in 75% of people who experience IBS.
How to follow a low FODMAP diet?
To follow a low FODMAP diet it’s recommended to eliminate all high FODMAP foods for 4 – 6 weeks. If your symptoms improve after the removal of high FODMAP foods, then gradually reintroduce high FODMAP foods one at a time and monitor your symptoms for three days to assess your triggers and symptoms. Once you have completed this process, you can now maintain your diet long-term knowing what specific FODMAP foods to stay away from.
It’s can be hard to keep track of every food that contains FODMAPs that’s why it’s best to get professional help from a registered dietitian or nutritionist who is trained in FODMAP diets. Monash University has also developed an app that helps guide you with following a low FODMAP diet.
What if symptoms persist after following a low FODMAP diet?
There are many other triggers of IBS including caffeine, alcohol and foods that are fatty or spicy. Stress is also a major contributor to IBS symptoms and managing stress levels may help to reduce symptoms.
FODMAPs are found in many common foods and removing these unnecessarily could contribute to nutritional deficiencies. Before attempting to follow a low FODMAP diet you should first consult with medical doctor to confirm if IBS is the problem and not another condition such as coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease or endometriosis.
If you have any questions or need some extra support with your health, feel free to email our head nutritionist Ben at email@example.com and subscribe to our blog for more updates.
This article does not constitute medical advice and does not take into consideration your personal circumstances. Please see your medical professional before implementing the above